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X Italian Rice and Polenta Dishes
Risotto with Swiss Chard and Tomatoes
Risotto with Chard and Tomatoes (Version I)
Originated from: Casacalenda, Molise
Occasion: Any time
Contributed by: Mary Melfi (her mother's recipe)

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about 2 cups chicken broth
2 cups Italian rice
1 bunch Swiss chard*
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
about 1/2 cup Pecorino cheese, grated (optional)

Large pot of water to boil Swiss chard
Pot of water to boil rice

*Swiss chard comes closest to the vegetable, "bietola" ("lieta" in dialect), that was grown in Molise in the 1930s


o Clean and cook Swiss chard. Drain. Chop into pieces (about 3 inches long).

o Cook rice in water until it is half done.

o Drain rice when it is half done. Continue cooking rice in chicken broth until it is ready (The rice should not be wet or soggy, but rather dryish).

o Fry onion until it is a light golden color.

o Add garlic and tomatoes; continue frying for about 5 minutes.

o Add rice to the fried onion and garlic. Mix well.

o Add Swiss chard to the rice mixture.

o Season.

o Serve in individual bowls. Garnish with grated Pecorino cheese (optional).


There were many variations on this dish made in Molise at the turn of the last century. Home cooks did not follow "traditional" recipes, as nothing back then was written in stone. Actually, nothing was written down period. Most people who made their living off the land at that time were illiterate. So home cooks simply followed recipes they had learned from their mothers, changing ingredients to suit their own personal preferences.... Photo: Mary Melfi. P.S. The photo does not include tomatoes (an oversight).

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